By Nick Harris
20 September 2010
Snooker players will be banned for life for any infringement of “Draconian” new betting rules intended to make the sport “cleaner than clean, whiter then white”, according Barry Hearn, the chairman of World Snooker.
Hearn was speaking as he launched a new integrity unit, to be overseen by the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Lord Stevens, the chairman of Quest, and another former high-ranking Met policeman, David Douglas, who Hearn hired to clean up snooker even before the recent John Higgins case hit the headlines.
Higgins, serving a six-month ban for failing to report an approach by tabloid newspaper reporters pretending to be East European racketeers, will have a hands-on role in the education of players in relation to gambling issues.
World Snooker is still working on the fine detail of its new rules, which will be rubber-stamped at a board meeting on 7 October and come into force thereafter, but in essence:
- players, managers, officials, agents and anyone else involved in the game will be banned from having any bets of any kind on anything to do with snooker, whether or not they are involved in the game or tournament in question. Anyone found breaching this will receive an instant lifetime ban. Hearn says all bets will be banned, including “savers, insurance bets on prize money, laying off bets on maximum breaks or high breaks. It’s a total blanket on any form of gambling.”
- failure to report an approach from any third party about gambling will be punished with a lifetime ban.
- any match-fixing, frame-fixing, spot-fixing or other kind of fixing or collusion or agreement to fix will be punished by a lifetime ban.
- a three-pronged approach to eradicating betting-related corruption from snooker will involve intelligence gathering (including hotlines for tip-offs), investigation (with beefed-up resources to chase leads), and prevention (primarily via education of players on the rules).
- the new rules will apply from the time they are approved by the board. They will not be retrospective. There is not likely to be a widespread review of historic cases that may or may not have been dealt with by other bodies including the Gambling Commission already.
Hearn said: “It will be totally against the rules for anyone to make any financial gain from any betting activity.” He said the most important people in sport are the fans who watch. “These people have got to enjoy their sport in the knowledge that the sport is cleaner than clean, that everyone is giving 100 per cent all the time and that no-one is involved in any financial benefit whatsoever other than the prize money they are playing for. In terms of gambling, it needs to be completely and totally outlawed.”
Lord Stevens said: “Without any doubt at all, betting is the biggest threat to worldwide sport at the present time . . . Integrity is non-negotiable. Sport will only move forward if we show to the world that we are fully committed to clean and fair sport at all levels. Independent Integrity Units are a best practice model which have already been implemented by other international sports.
“Integrity is about fair play right across sport, not just about competitors and officials. It as much about protecting the innocent as it is about trying to prevent and identify irregular practices. All of us involved in sport have a duty to ensure that our sports are clean. Otherwise, the sports we love are under threat.”
David Douglas, asked to clarify the logic behind the Higgins’ verdict, which saw the world No1 cleared of match-fixing or any intention of match-fixing by an independent tribunal, said both he and Ian Mill QC had reached their conclusions after consideration “all of the evidence, the whole picture, and not just headlines.”
Back in the world of competitive snooker, the game had just the kind of boost it needs on the playing side today when Ronnie O’Sullivan made a 147 – the 10th of his career – at the 12bet.com World Open in Glasgow. The Rocket said afterwards that he considered not potting the final black because there is no 147 bonus prize on offer.